Virtual Programming: Virtual Round Tables

Virtual round tables are less formal and structured than a webinar, and don't contain information that is shared by a speaker. Their primary purpose is to give members a way to share ideas about a specific topic. A committee member or other member serves as faciliator, guiding the discussion and providing seed questions to the group as needed. Questions can be solicited from attendees in advnace if desired, but the focus is open dialogue. Round tables are generally one hour in length and do not involve speakers with particular expertise or involve a lot of advanced prep work.

Examples of round tables:

  • Discussions among niche groups when the audience will be relatively small and/or the topic is specific and focused. An example is an employer roundtable, or a directors roundtable to discuss a specific issue such as business school rankings.
  • When the topic lends itself to a more relaxed, unstructured atmosphere with lots of sharing among attendees. In these cases, the topic and audience can be more broad. An example might be how schools are structuring virtual orientations or the impact COVID has had on employee mental health.


Pre-Event Planning

  1. Determine the topic for the round table based on the organization’s strategic priorities, member feedback, current industry trends and Executive Director input. Unlike the webinars, virtual round tables are  developed as needed based on current market trends and member needs, and therefore they don't need to be advertised as far in advance. Ideally, round tables would be planned to give members two weeks' notice.
  2. Work with the Executive Director to select the date, based on other committee events and MBA CSEA events. Round tables are scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. The timing that works for most members based on time zones is 11 am EST, however rround tables should be scheduled at times that are convenient to members in the APAC region as well.
  3. Create the round table title and description, and send it to the Executive Director and Committee Chair for feedback.
  4. Enter all of the details into the session tracking sheet and notify the Executive Director that it has been entered. The following details are needed:
    • Session description
    • Date
    • Time
    • Facilitator(s) names, titles and organizations
    • Facilitator(s) phone number and email
    • Interactive components that will be used (polls, breakout rooms, whiteboard, etc.)
    • Poll questions, if used
  5. MBA CSEA staff will add the event to the web site and distribute the marketing materials to the membership. Once the event registration is live on the web site, be sure to register for the event so you will receive the login details in the confirmation email.
  6. MBA CSEA staff will send a reminder with the login details to all registrants with the login details the day of, and just before the event. They will also send the login details, RSVP list and any last minute reminders to the faciliator at that time.
  7. Prepare at least five questions about the topic to serve as seed questions if the attendees don't have a lot to say.
  8. The Executive Director will send you the estimated attendance numbers about a week in advance of the event. If more than 40 attendees are expected, breakout rooms are recommended (with 5 - 6 attendeees per room). If these will be used, you can select faciliators (typically committee memberes) for each room and send them the questions in advance. Or, you can provide attendees with the questions and allow for free flow idea exchange without a formal facilitator.


During the Event - Your Role as Facilitator

As a facilitator, you do not need to have any special technical expertise or familiarity with the software. The Executive Director or Executive Assistant will log in as host and handle all technical/administrative aspects of the event. This includes: recording the event, letting attendees in, muting callers as needed due to background noise, and setting up breakout rooms if needed. 
 
  1. Log in to the Round Table 15 minutes in advance (along with the Executive Director/Executive Assistant), using the login information that is in the confirmation email you received when you registered for the event (there is no separate login for facilitators).
  2. Introduce the topic at the beginning, and welcome people to the event (see sample script below).
  3. Ask questions to get the conversation started and keep it going. If needed, call on individuals to ask for their expertise or input. Keep an eye on the chat, as some people will ask questions and provide comments there (especially with larger groups). Make sure one or two people don't dominate the conversation. The Executive Director can assist with the chat monitoring if needed.
  4. Close out the event at the end, thanking the speaker(s) and making any necessary announcements (see sample script below)


Facilitation Tips

  • Ice breakers can be fun ways to introduce the group and set a positive tone for the round table, but they should be quick so they don't dominate the time. MBA CSEA members like to share! :) With groups larger than 10 - 15, consider using the chat for introductions. Polls can also be used to kick off on a positive note.
  • Try to engage everyone in the group as much as possible. This can be done by encouraging conversation in the chat, using breakout rooms for groups larger than 40, or asking questions like "Has everyone had a chance to contribute?"
  • Ask questions for people to respond to in the chat. This works well with groups larger than 20 when it will take a long time for everyone to respond using audio.
  • Use screen sharing when there are lengthy questions, but use it minimally because attendeees typically like to see each other.
  • Use polls (let the Executive Director know the questions in advance).
  • Encourage attendees to use the virtual interaction tools, such as hand clapping, reactions or thumbs up.
  • Use the whiteboard option in Zoom, and allow people to add their own contributions through the annotate function. 
  • MBA CSEA also has accounts with Kahoot and Mentimeter that can be used if planned in advance.
  • If breakout groups are used, allow people to switch groups at least once so they can get to know more people.
  • Tell a personal story in the beginning that relates to the round table topic. 
  • If the group doesn't seem engaged, do a quick stretch break half way through.
     

Sample Scripts


Introduction Script

Good morning! This is [name] from  [insert university or organization] I am a member of the MBA CSEA Virtual Programming Committee.  Welcome to all of our virtual round table participants. We're excited to get started today with a converstaion about [topic].(feel free to add more details about why the topic was selected, if desired).

I have few technology pointers before we get started.
  • In order to avoid disruptions and background noise, we have muted all participants.
  • To ask a question or contribute to the discussion, please unmute your audio and/or use the chat function, which can be found on the bottom of your screen.
  • This meeting is being recorded, and it will be available in the Document Library, which can be accesed through your login at: www.mbacsea.org.
Closing
Thank you for your participation and contributions to this discussion! We look forward to seeing you at future MBA CSEA events. We have the following coming up: [check the event calendar and list all upcoming events in the next month].

Please feel free to reach out to our Executive Director if you have any feedback about this event or ideas for future topics.